“Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success” – Henry Ford
In this blog series we will try to answer a question that many people are asking on social media and knowledge forums: How to start a music band? We believe there are two other questions that are included in this one: how to make your band successful and how to stay successful in the long run! For the purpose of this blog we will limit the scope to aspiring amateur (or college) bands. We will address the professionals in a separate blog in the future.
Most successful bands share several common traits:
Each individual musician is quite talented, there are always one or two talented musicians, they all are almost of the same age, they practice and work very hard often away from home, etc. However, it turns out theses points hold true even for not so successful bands! So, how do some bands make it big while many perish trying? We spoke to two aspiring bands that recently won a popular music competition conducted across colleges in India.
We asked them about their stories and how they approach their music:
1.How did you form your band?
All our band mates belong to different parts of the city and different colleges. But the core members have known each other for a very long time and we decided we wanted to play together.
2.Why is your band called One Piece?
We believe music is like a jigsaw puzzle. It needs to come together correctly to make sense. Like in one piece!
3.What is the most important trait all the band mates share?
When you think about starting a band tips, we believe passion and work ethic far outweigh technical skills. Most of our band members are not formally trained but have been able to learn skills the hard way by practicing and playing for a very long time. The other important aspect is that your band has to be very close knit – with regard to time, harmony, growth and everything else. This is especially important if you’re wondering how to make your band successful.
4.How do you win competitions?
One Piece didn’t start playing to compete. But when we took part in a few competitions and lost, we began looking for the reasons. We found out that the key is to not just play covers, but to be able to showcase the band’s identity with some originals.
5.How do you improve your skills?
We aren’t shy to ask judges for feedback. It helps us analyse our strengths and weaknesses after every concert. We also practice almost every day of the week for about three to four hours, after taking care of school work, of course. Then we record and listen to what we’ve come up with during each session.
The core members of our band are all part of the same extended family and we have been involved in playing Gospel music for a long time. We added a few more members after diversifying into other genres.
2.What is the most important trait all the band mates share?
The key members in the band have studied formally and have a strong technical foundation. And since we have been playing together for a while we know each other really well. We share the same thought process and plans for FJRS, and that’s how to make your band successful.
3.How do you win competitions?
You can’t prepare just covers to win competitions. In order to win today bands have to come with their originals: their own songs. Since there is a lot of good talent that plays covers quite well, it is very difficult to just try to compete on covers.
4.How do you practice?
Playing every week in a church keeps our practice going. Each week we plan some new covers or improvs to perform. Usually we focus on mainstream gospel and sometimes we try versions of popular songs in other genres. Plus, we practice through the week.
Although both One Piece and FJRS are both upcoming bands, most of their insights and experiences are actually no different from well-established and famous bands. For instance, most famous rock bands such as Pink Floyd, The Doors, Queen, REM etc. were all formed by members who studied together and found their musical skills complemented each other. They worked hard for several years and faced a lot of rejection before finally tasting success.
So this is the first secret: it takes a long time, hard work and several failures before a band can make it together. So, knowing each other well and being able to complement each other’s musical and other skills (e.g. Jim Morrison was singer, Ray Manzarek played keyboard but both studied poetry) will help you stick together through several rough patches. But it is equally important to note that each member is equally important. While bands go on to create their superstars, no successful band was started with a superstar in it!
“Practice, practice, practice. Nothing teaches you more about where the nexus lays between what makes you excited, as a player, and what excites an audience. You really cannot play too much, on your own, with a band, and onstage. Magic happens – but it often requires some planning”
The second secret: Play as much live as possible. Churches, cafes, bars, wedding or receptions. It doesn’t matter. Play and learn how you can connect with the audience. Try different genres and styles and see how you play together.
Discipline is an essential element to any team to make progress. As most famous bands like Beatles and famous musicians such as David Gilmour and Eric Clapton have shared in a number of interviews, creating music is only 10% ideation and 90% craft. This is the third secret, especially for bands starting to create their original content. Getting a lot of ideas is important. But continuing to refine these ideas and endlessly improving them takes a disciplined approach. Clapton once said making music is like working on a puzzle that can never be completed!
So, there you have it: the three secrets to getting yourselves off the ground and how to make your band successful!
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